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Freelance Writers: Can You Really Make $5,000 From a Single White Paper Gig?
By William Ballard, Freelance Writer and Author
Do you want writing gigs that pay very well?
Then this article is for you. Why?
Once you find out how much you can earn by writing white papers, the answer is obvious. I’ll get to that in a second, but first, let’s talk about niche markets.
Different niche markets have different techniques and even slightly different marketing themes. Finding a niche is usually as easy as looking into your own hobbies and skills. You find something you are incredibly passionate about and start writing based on that angle. Often you will specialize within the niche a bit but you will probably have years of experience of writing in just one or two areas.
Some niches aren’t just based on your hobbies and the things you are passionate about. If you have spent your career in banking and finance, for example, then an obvious niche for you might be to write finance articles. While you might not be passionate or enjoy the topic as much as others you will be able to write on the subject with ease and without spending a lot of precious time researching the subject matter before you create the article.
Another exception is the topic here: White Papers. Now if you are wondering what white papers are and how you write them you aren’t alone. Many people think that these are scholarly papers that you need specialized knowledge in to write. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only special skill you need to create white papers is the ability to write and you already possess that!
Many freelance writers see the term ‘white paper’ and just cruise on by without stopping to take a further look. If they did, they would see that the average rate for a 4 page white paper is $5,000.
I’ll just bet that got your attention!
What are White Papers?
White papers are essentially reports that convey specific information of a specialized nature to a generally small and selectively targeted audience. There are several types of them based on their end purpose but they are all created in respectfully the same way. All you really need to know is who the target audience is and you are ready to write.
When a client needs a white paper written you will be given the information to convert and the audience that it is intended to reach. This is important because these are highly specialized papers but often the audience is only vaguely familiar with some of the more technical aspects of the project. The client needs to break the highly technical information down into a format that the audience can consume easily and ultimately understand with simplicity. Sometimes the information is technical and sometimes scientific. It is always information that you have to have a specially developed skill set or knowledge base to understand upfront. In other words, it is something that you are an expert in. That is where you come in as a freelance writer. You will work with the client to break this information down into a simple and easily understandable format.
Specific Audiences of White Papers
The four demographics of white papers are:
This is simply a report that is one department sharing with another within the same company or a company report to the workers of the organization. It can also be the breakdown of a project from one department to the management of the firm.
Business to Investor
The business is looking for investors and needs to explain to them in simple terms what they do and how the money would be used along with how it benefits the investor.
Simple Voice to Society
We are all familiar with this one. There is often some breakthrough in science or technology and we read about it and think it sounds great. The truth is that if someone hadn’t broken it down we probably would have quit reading after we didn’t understand the first sentence. These white papers make it possible for the average person to understand highly technical and scientific information.
These are the ones we think of when we hear the term ‘white paper’ most often. These are often scholarly papers written for committees, discussion groups, and even publication in journals.
3 Types of White Papers
There are three types of white papers and they each serve a specific purpose and are best suited to a particular audience (similar to ones we have mentioned above). Before you ask, it’s rare that you will not have a clear idea of which type would be best to use. If there is any doubt, just ask the client what the specific goal of the project is and who they want to reach. That will clear up those rare cases quickly.
Here are the three types:
Product or Service Background
This is a look at the features and benefits of a particular product or service. You simply list the facts of the product or service and any expected benefits. The target is generally business to business, usually sales personnel. They generally run about 8 pages and are highly promotional.
This persuasively written essay uses facts and logic to present a new solution to an old problem. You are generally targeting upper level management here as well as journalists, bloggers and industry analysts. These tend to run about 12 pages.
This is a list of questions, answers or discussion topics about a particular issue. The target of this type of White Paper is anyone interested in the particular issue being discussed. These are normally about 6 pages long and are widely used to generate interest and attention. When writing these you are generally going to be alert and provocative in your wording. This is the least formal of the three and you want your writing to be noticed here. That’s the whole point of this particular type of White Paper.
There, suddenly White papers don’t seem so confusing anymore, do they? Given the amount of money that can be earned in this wide-open and almost untapped niche, it would certainly be worth your time to learn the formats. It’s not a difficult learning process, as you can see from the information given above.
Where Are The Clients?
Pick a business, a company, or a product. All of them need White Papers. This is one of the easiest areas to locate clients because essentially every business needs them and almost no one writes them. In many cases, you might use some of the direct email techniques I have written about before and be one of a handful of freelance writers to contact that company. If you do this and specify that you write White Papers, you will likely be the only freelance writer to have contacted them about writing in this specialty.
Many freelance writers that I follow have told me that they actually got started writing white papers because a client that they had worked with on other projects contacted them and asked if they knew of anyone who wrote them. In other words, they got started by happy accident.
Now I got your attention earlier by giving you the average for White Papers ($5,000). The average means that not only do some writers make a bit less; others make quite a bit more. The difference is in results of your White papers.
If you write a White Paper that helps a company generate millions in investment capital, you can be sure that your next client can be tapped for a higher fee. You have proven your worth and will be compensated accordingly. The first few you write might not generate large sums of money but that’s okay. Make them some of the best writing you have ever created and the big money will follow quickly. Unlike many writing areas, this doesn’t take long.
White papers are generally business-to-business and that world moves quickly. You need to be able to focus, get the job done and be ready to tackle the next one very quickly. The beauty is that you will be making enough money to do just that without having to juggle a dozen projects just to pay the bills.
I have very frequently written that you should never put all of your writing eggs in one basket and you shouldn’t. Writing White Papers will have you with a secure client list, as opposed to just one or two clients. The pay is exceptional and gives you plenty of free time to pursue other projects. You write White Papers for the money, not the love of writing or the project.
At the end of the day, few writers bother because with these types of projects because they make the mistake of thinking that they would need special knowledge or education to even land these types of writing gigs. However, the truth of the matter is, anyone who can write can put this niche into play.
It’s well worth it!
Have you written White Papers before? Share your thoughts about writing White Papers or the issues (or lack of issues) you have had with White Paper clients in the comments below.
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About the Author
William Ballard is the author of, "8 Tips to Freelance Writing Success (Article Writing Series)" and "3 Steps to Blogging Success: Discovering Your Passion, Finding Your Audience, and Developing an Income Stream (Article Series)".
He has been writing professionally for over 10+ years and has much experience within the industry, both in publishing and in freelance writing. He has successfully self-published over 10 books and eBooks. Visit his Amazon Author Page to see list of his most recent projects.